Thanks to a range of business intelligence tools both freely and commercially available, we have countless ways to examine what people are searching for. Historically, what has been harder to document is the process of how people search. A growing body of research sheds light on this subject, and these studies give marketers a roadmap for what they can learn about their customers.

Last week, the latest edition of the WebSideStory Index came out, showing that repeat visitors at retail sites are eight times more likely to make a purchase than new visitors, with the conversion rates varying by category. Yahoo's new "Long & Winding Road" report examines consumer shopping behavior across five different verticals. Enquiro, EyeTools, and Did-It's Eye Tracking Study pinpoints how consumers interact with search engine results pages. If you're going to try to digest all the relevant research from within the past year alone, you'll have enough reading material for a cross-country flight (both directions, if you're taking notes).

We'll explore two other studies in a bit more detail; on the first one, for full disclosure, I served as one of its authors. This month, 360i and SearchIgnite released a white paper, "Giving Clicks Credit Where They're Due: What You Need to Know When Allocating Your Search Budget." This report examined searchers who clicked on paid search ads and studied the factors that led to whether they completed a transaction with that marketer. On average, searchers who converted clicked an average of 1.5 of a given marketer's ads, and those who didn't convert clicked 1.3 ads on average. Consumers who make a purchase are more active in the search process.

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